Book Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab is a middle school, paranormal novel and the first book in the Cassidy Black series. Cassidy must go to Edinburgh, Scotland when her parents, ghost hunters, get a TV show. Her parents can’t see ghosts but Cass can. Ever since her drowning Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the ghost but she is not alone. She is joined by her best friend Jacob, the ghost who saved her that day in the river. In Edinburgh Cass meets Lara, a girl that can also see the dead, and learns she has a lot more responsibility but can Cass keep herself safe in a city with many more ghost, a veil grabbing at her, and an evil woman in red known to snatch children’s life force.

I am not the intended age group however, ten-year-old me ate this up. I loved reading the way the Scottish history and superstitions were spun into the story. Schwab does a great job with the book’s atmosphere. It felt as if Edinburgh was another character and the description of the Veil left me with a vivid picture of the in-between. Schwab was able to make a creepy, chilling setting without being gruesome. Also, through their interactions, rules, and secrets, I really enjoyed Cassidy’s relationship with her best friend, Jacob.

My negative, there is a great deal of background before the subplot takes over. The story falls into the first book in a series flaw, a slow beginning and an over too soon ending but I still found myself invested. The end gifts the reader with nagging little questions about what haunted city setting could possibly be next (I have my mind set on Paris) and the ending’s ominous undertone with certain characters.

I enjoyed this novel as an adult reader and if you know middle school readers with a pension for ghost stories, look no farther then City of Ghosts.

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab will be published by Scholastic Press on August 28th, 2018.

Purchase this title through Amazon and Book Depository.

 

Book Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren.

After a few embarrassing meetups in college Josh Im and Hazel Bradford reunite years later. Josh is sweet, thoughtful, and sensible while Hazel it quirky, funny, and straightforward. After Josh’s last relationship ends horribly Hazel convinces Josh to go on double dates with her. The dates they pick for each other don’t always work out but they have fun spending time together and the more time spent together the stronger the romantic tension.

This is the first novel I’ve read by the writing duo Christina Lauren and it was such an entertaining rom-com read. There were even parts that made me laugh out loud.

Hazel may lack a filter and be a bit zany but she has a big heart and doesn’t come across too over the top. I thought she was clearly believable and likable. Josh is a sweet straight man which makes it easy to fall in love with him. I was never left believing these characters would never work. Their friendship/romance was a little the opposite attract trope but didn’t feel thrown together or so contradicting to feel stretch thin. Instead, the relationship between Josh and Hazel was a slow burn, a lovely way to build tension, and with the feeling of a well-suited pair. Christina Lauren also does a great job of making the characters’ responsible adults talking about real-world topics like sex, testing, and bleeding without any shame, or guilt.

My only negative with the book was with the ending. I won’t give anything away but it felt rush. I would gladly pick up another novel by Christina Lauren in the future. They can paint clear scenes and deep characters without heavy fluff. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary romance and is looking for an energetic and cheerful read.

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren will be published by Gallery Books on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018.

Purchase this title through Amazon or Book Depository.

Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a very powerful read. Based on a true story the book is about Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, sent to the concentration camp, Auschwitz, in April 1942. Determined to survive he uses his charm, and ability to speak several languages and works at keeping useful. Eventually, he is put to work as the tattooist of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Struggling with the moral integrity of the job, being the tattooist has more rations, better sleeping arraignments, and more freedom to move around the camp. Lale uses his fortunate position helping his fellow prisoners stay alive exchanging money and jewels from murdered Jews for food and medicine. While tattooing one day he meets Gita and instantly falls for her. He swears they will survive the camp and marry. This is their story.

This book is a story of resilience and love. While we are familiar with the horrific time period and the conditions endured by so many, Morris’s retelling of Lale’s story is a reminder of the strength, courage, and fight for life and love. It is a hard book to review. This book was well-written, stirring up so many emotions and Lale’s story will stay with me. At times, hard to read, but impossible to put down. Thank you Heather Morris for helping bring Lale and Gita’s story to light.

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris will be published by Harper Paperbacks on September 4th, 2018.

Purchase this title through AmazonBook Depository, or eBooks.com.

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver is much more than the retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. It incorporates fantasy, myth, and dark retellings making it a lush layered novel with flushes out characters and worlds.

The story starts with Miryem, daughter, and granddaughter to a moneylender. Her family is poor since her father repeatedly fails at collecting dues. When her mother becomes ill and Miryem has grown sick herself from constant poverty she goes out to collect the funds owed. She soon finds she is good at the job and over time turns more silver into gold. But this causes the notice of the Staryk, a terrible being who brings the winter and wants gold above all else.

The story includes a woman hired to pay her (physical) abuse father’s debt and take care of her siblings. There is also the story of a noble girl, considered plain and useless to her father but who must fight for her life and those she loves after she is married to a cruel tsar cursed with a fire demon in his body.

The world building is seemingly simple. The introduction to the world builds on the people’s stories and fears till the magic is more than just under the surface but true and an increment part of these women’s everyday lives.

Novik has a talent for presenting multiple character point of views with complex sub-plots weaving everything into a single brimming tale. I didn’t find it hard to follow the different perspectives. Each character had a distinct voice but the book also uses a corresponding symbol for each character at page breaks or beginning chapters. I loved the strong empowering female theme throughout. Another thing to note is Miryem and her family is Jewish. The novel touches on the importance of her Jewish identity as well as with small-town prejudices, and anti-Semitism making it more relevant to today’s world.

Spinning Silver has a way of taking historical and present topics of discussions, mixing in myths and fairytales, and making everything relatable. Overall, Naomi Novik can transport you to a time and place you can believe without a doubt is real and that is real magic.

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. Spinning Silver by Noami Novik will be published by Del Rey on Tuesday, July 10th 2018.

Purchase this title through AmazonBook Depository, or Ebooks.com.

NaNoWriMo – The End?

Well, National Novel Writing Month is over and according to the NaNoWriMo rules for winning, I didn’t win. It is easy to feel disappointed when so many around you are celebrating. It seems so very black and white, you either win or lose. However, writing isn’t like that. By November 30th, I had written 34,400 words and I think that’s pretty damn good.

I started off the challenge strong but struggling. I had to find ways to keep my mind on task. Sometimes it was stepping away from the computer, getting some tea, or a snack. If I hadn’t hit the daily goal it was getting my ass back in the writing chair. I learned to adjust my personal word count goals depending on the day of the week. There was no time to go back and edit, because I had a word total to hit.

The second week, plot problems started to pop up. I still kept writing deciding to flush out characters through scene writing but by the end of this week I started to feel the creative drain. If I wasn’t partaking in this competition I think I would have went back to rewrite and rework some scenes. Instead, I pushed forward.

Week three was the great word count slow down. The intense writing schedule, increase in holiday engagements, lack of story structure and motivation hit me hard. I was feeling tapped out, overwhelmed, and disappointed. I entered week four considerably behind my word count. I had to make a decision, I could write 5,000 words a day to win the challenge and probably grow to hate all I had accomplished thus far or carry on writing  as a writer might. So the last week, I wrote 1000 words a day. I added more to my story outline, character lists, and world-building frame work. I knew I wasn’t going to finished. Why stress out? I have never felt better about a decision.

I was feeling empty near the end. I thought I would be a let down because I didn’t finish the challenge. No matter the word count accomplished you have to remember you created something. Time to stop comparing ourselves to others, recognize our achievements, and keep up the momentum gained by attempting NaNoWriMo. I didn’t write 50,000 words but I have over 34,000 words I didn’t have before. Also, I am making writing a habit which I think, for me, is most important in the end. This is only my first draft, time to start revising.

Congrats

NaNoWriMo: Week Three

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Here is an update of a post that is week three and most of four but better late than never. I don’t think I’ll finish NaNoWriMo this time around. There are four more days to write 50,000 words and I would have to write about 5,000 words a day to reach the goal. I don’t see it happening.

Thanksgiving week was not kind to me. Too many engagements and not enough time or motivation. I was still writing but my 2,000 average word count dropped to about 300 words a day and my 3 day lead, well, I’m now 12 days behind. I finished my story and learned I needed more action to fill in the middle. Also, need more characters.

I’ll keep trying to write and see how many words I can end with but my first NaNoWriMo looks like a bust. I’ll give more of an update of my positives and negatives when it is officially over. Until then, got to keep writing.

 

 

NaNoWriMo: Week Two

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Everything started out so well this week. I had direction. I had confidence. I was excited.  Now, not so much. About half way through this week, I finally hit a wall. Plot problems. I knew it had to happen but I just thought I’d push through. It’s caused me to write a lot of character history through scenes. Not bad but I want to flush out the story more and I don’t know where to go.

It’s hard to write 2000 words everyday. I know the NaNoWriMo goal is 1,667 but I’m was trying to get ahead. It feels nice to have a buffer zone. I’m sure everyone who is participating can relate, but today there has been a quiet voice whispering in my ear to give up. I still typed out a few words but not enough. I should focus on the positives to help motivate. I’m half way done with a little over 25,000 words and that’s an amazing feat. Just feeling a little run down at the moment and seeing the glass half empty.

Going to try to push though and keep moving forward.